I Can’t Take You Home Anymore

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I can’t take you home with me anymore. You already have a home. And those three a.m. texts won’t change anything. The way you drink whiskey and let your heart stray a little bit into your brain, the way you call me when you’re lonely and ask me what my bedroom looks like. You walk out my front door, say you’re never coming back, and then I feel you slipping in between my sheets for just a minute on the evenings when you’re too drunk to fall asleep. And what do you think is going to happen, darling? You always leave just before it gets light. I wake up knowing you were never really there, just a silver wisp of smoke where my lungs used to be. I wish we were just friends. I used to think we were, you know, but we can’t be friends when you’re falling asleep with your body in her bed and your heart in my apartment.

I wonder what it is that carries you back. The Santa Ana winds, an argument with your girl, a detour on I-35? I always picture you far away and dreaming until you let me know that you’re wide awake, too. I always think that I’m the only vampire haunting the streets we used to stalk on the Lower East Side, but that can’t be right. There’s two of us not-sleeping, not-dreaming, not-searching for new blood. Two lonely, hungry, night-things, trying hard not to fall out of love with Manhattan. I wish we could still drink mulled wine together at that bar down by Delancey / Essex. Maybe we could listen to that Winter Solstice mix tape you made me, and you wouldn’t feel so thirsty anymore.

Maybe that’s my magic; that you always find your way back to me in the night. Remember when I had a key to your attic apartment? I would slip through the cracks in your front door like a ghost, remove my boots, grab your dirty t-shirt from the floor, and lay on the side of your bed farthest away from the air conditioning. You’d wrap your arms around me and press your nose into the back of my neck. I always wondered how you knew it was my body in your sleep. I always wondered how your sleeping hips found my lower back with the lights out.

Why do you tell me about your hopeless bouts of nostalgia? I don’t tell you about mine. How I missed you every time I turned on the stove, so I started ordering take out every night. How I haven’t been back to California since December because the desert reminds me of you. How I can’t listen to Badfish anymore in my car on the 118. How I miss your dirty shoes leaving scuff marks on my walls. How I miss your Bob Dylan hair first thing in the morning and the way you always had to be right. How I smoked your brand of cigarettes for weeks after you left. I still remember how it feels to drag my fingertips along your jawline, from your earlobe to your chin, the way your voice changed in my ear when everyone else had gone home.

Now, I see my lipstick along the rim of someone else’s coffee cup in the morning. I don’t tell you funny jokes anymore, because I don’t want you to think that I’m beautiful. I tell you every three weeks that this time, it’s for good, and I prepare for the radio silence. I tell you that I’m sorry. I tell you that this time, we can’t be friends. I tell you how the day you disappeared came suddenly, like a car crash. How falling in love with you was much slower, like pouring out the last dregs of a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold.

But you’re not a fool. You’ll only pick the coldest nights to follow me home, nights when my landlord forgets to turn on the heat and I fall asleep with the window open. You howl outside until I sigh and let you in, and you curl up at my feet, calling me puppy and saying you miss my spicy turkey taco recipe. You make me laugh or you tell me a story, and for a minute I forget how I cried on the couch in the same pair of dirty sweatpants for three whole days when you left, how I cursed your mother and your sister for not teaching you how to be kind. And so, I let you stay the night and I break my own heart before breakfast the next day. I go to work even though I haven’t slept, and I drink lots of espresso and I try not to think about the tattoo on your finger, about the scar on your arm, about your hollowed out chest.

The fact of the matter is that we both go home to houses with other people in them now. I wish I knew how to make that sound romantic, but I don’t. And as much as I want you to slice me up a mango for dessert, as much as I want your hands in my hair and your pants on my floor, I want you to go home to your new girl even more. I’m not a woman who is easy to love. Please don’t come back here, darling. I am not your home. TC mark

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